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Free Things To Do in Yosemite

If you have extra time, Glacier Point is worthwhile.

#1

#1 in Yosemite

Free
Unless you are solely planning backcountry expeditions during your trip to Yosemite, chances are you'll end up in Yosemite Valley at one point or another. That's because Yosemite Valley features much of the park's top attractions, including Tunnel View Outlook and a handful of Yosemite's most famous waterfalls, including Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Falls, to name a few. One of the world's largest granite monoliths, El Capitan, is also located here. 
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Hiking Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
Yosemite Valley
Unless you are solely planning backcountry expeditions during your trip to Yosemite, chances are you'll end up in Yosemite Valley at one point or another. That's because Yosemite Valley features much of the park's top attractions, including Tunnel View Outlook and a handful of Yosemite's most famous waterfalls, including Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Falls, to name a few. One of the world's largest granite monoliths, El Capitan, is also located here. 
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#2

#2 in Yosemite

Free
Along with Glacier Point, Tunnel View is widely considered to be the most popular outlook in all of Yosemite. From its vantage point, travelers get an eyeful of the majestic Yosemite Valley, complete with views of famous park sites, such as Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall. What's more, the outlook is pretty easy to reach. You can find Tunnel View along Wawona Road, which serves as a gateway to Yosemite Valley's many attractions, accommodations and amenities. If you're staying in Yosemite Valley, chances are you will travel along or near Wawona Road.
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Hiking Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Tunnel View Outlook
Along with Glacier Point, Tunnel View is widely considered to be the most popular outlook in all of Yosemite. From its vantage point, travelers get an eyeful of the majestic Yosemite Valley, complete with views of famous park sites, such as Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall. What's more, the outlook is pretty easy to reach. You can find Tunnel View along Wawona Road, which serves as a gateway to Yosemite Valley's many attractions, accommodations and amenities. If you're staying in Yosemite Valley, chances are you will travel along or near Wawona Road.
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#3

#3 in Yosemite

Free
Glacier Point is considered one of the best and most comprehensive lookouts in Yosemite. Visitors regularly describe Glacier Point's sweeping, panoramic vistas as "breathtaking," calling it a truly can't-miss spot in the park. From Glacier's vantage point, visitors are treated to panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, as well as landmarks like Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. Unlike many lookout points in Yosemite, Glacier Point is accessible via roadway, allowing drivers to forego a difficult climb. This is particularly fortunate if you're traveling with young children who would otherwise be unable to enjoy a scenic, high-altitude view of the Yosemite Valley.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Glacier Point
Glacier Point is considered one of the best and most comprehensive lookouts in Yosemite. Visitors regularly describe Glacier Point's sweeping, panoramic vistas as "breathtaking," calling it a truly can't-miss spot in the park. From Glacier's vantage point, visitors are treated to panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, as well as landmarks like Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. Unlike many lookout points in Yosemite, Glacier Point is accessible via roadway, allowing drivers to forego a difficult climb. This is particularly fortunate if you're traveling with young children who would otherwise be unable to enjoy a scenic, high-altitude view of the Yosemite Valley.
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#5

#5 in Yosemite

Free
In the east section of the park you'll find Tuolumne Meadows, known for being one of the Sierra Nevada's largest high-elevation meadows at 8,600 feet. Here, you'll find plenty of scenery to write home about, including the peaceful grasslands, lush forests, windy, bubbling rivers and creeks and scenic mountainscapes. You can experience the scenery from the comfort of your own car, thanks to the vista points posted along Tioga Road (Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake), or take advantage of the many trails available within the vicinity. 
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Hiking Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Tuolumne Meadows
In the east section of the park you'll find Tuolumne Meadows, known for being one of the Sierra Nevada's largest high-elevation meadows at 8,600 feet. Here, you'll find plenty of scenery to write home about, including the peaceful grasslands, lush forests, windy, bubbling rivers and creeks and scenic mountainscapes. You can experience the scenery from the comfort of your own car, thanks to the vista points posted along Tioga Road (Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake), or take advantage of the many trails available within the vicinity. 
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#6

#6 in Yosemite

Free
The Mist Trail is one of the park's most popular trails. What makes The Mist Trail so unique is not its sites Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall but how you get there. To get to the top of the falls, hikers must climb a 600-step granite staircase that snakes right up alongside the hundreds-foot-tall plunge, taking visitors close enough to where mist from the falls sprays out onto the trail. Hence the name, the Mist Trail. The falls reach their peak from late spring to early summer, so if you want the traditional Mist Trail experience, with a light, natural shower while hiking, come during that time. 
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Mist Trail
The Mist Trail is one of the park's most popular trails. What makes The Mist Trail so unique is not its sites Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall but how you get there. To get to the top of the falls, hikers must climb a 600-step granite staircase that snakes right up alongside the hundreds-foot-tall plunge, taking visitors close enough to where mist from the falls sprays out onto the trail. Hence the name, the Mist Trail. The falls reach their peak from late spring to early summer, so if you want the traditional Mist Trail experience, with a light, natural shower while hiking, come during that time. 
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#7

#7 in Yosemite

Free
"Giant" seems to be an understatement for this expansive grove of Sequoia trees in the southernmost section of Yosemite. Mariposa is one of three groves in the park where visitors can view sequoia trees. The distinction between Mariposa Grove and the others is that Mariposa is the largest, housing about 500 mature giant sequoia trees that are thousands of years old. Featured sights include the Fallen Monarch (a giant tree that fell hundreds of years ago) and the Grizzly Giant, which is estimated to be around 1,800 years old and is about 90 feet in circumference. There's also the fun California Tunnel Tree, which is the only sequoia in Yosemite that features a manmade tunnel carved out the middle of the trunk. Admire the towering trees on one of the area's many hiking trails. Trails range from easy to strenuous, with the Big Trees Loop Trail being the easiest. This 30- to 45-minute hike (which is paved) takes travelers past a variety of giant sequoias, including the Fallen Monarch, with interpretive panels explaining the life of sequoias stationed along the route.
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Hiking Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Mariposa Grove
"Giant" seems to be an understatement for this expansive grove of Sequoia trees in the southernmost section of Yosemite. Mariposa is one of three groves in the park where visitors can view sequoia trees. The distinction between Mariposa Grove and the others is that Mariposa is the largest, housing about 500 mature giant sequoia trees that are thousands of years old. Featured sights include the Fallen Monarch (a giant tree that fell hundreds of years ago) and the Grizzly Giant, which is estimated to be around 1,800 years old and is about 90 feet in circumference. There's also the fun California Tunnel Tree, which is the only sequoia in Yosemite that features a manmade tunnel carved out the middle of the trunk. Admire the towering trees on one of the area's many hiking trails. Trails range from easy to strenuous, with the Big Trees Loop Trail being the easiest. This 30- to 45-minute hike (which is paved) takes travelers past a variety of giant sequoias, including the Fallen Monarch, with interpretive panels explaining the life of sequoias stationed along the route.
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